During the day, a stiff breeze had brought an uncommon visitor to the land: a plummet pup. While this particular green-hued pup was no stranger to travel, this was a new realm and he had approached the dense forest with a healthy amount of caution. The caution, he learned later, was mostly unwarranted.
The most noteworthy creature Lief stumbled upon were new to the pup, and at first he had tried to eat one of the smaller things. He was worrying the hard shell the little thing had curled into when suddenly an adult had popped out from the den underground with a threatening chirp. The pup had continued to paw at the young creature, not to be deterred so easily as by a worried parent. He quickly learned his lesson when the six-legged maternal figure gave another harsh warning, then spit a mouthful of fire at the unwelcome visitor. Lief had jumped back in shock, and avoided getting his face and fur singed by mere inches.
The plummet pup left the wild family then, his cation renewed. He had never seen such a creature with mastery over the destructive force of fire. Though he was well traveled as far as his species went, he still had seen only a small fraction of what the world had to offer.
The day had shown him more of the fire-spitting six-legged things, and all around their dens he found marks on small stones, sticks and even leaves. He investigated them at first with curiosity, but found them mostly useless. He wondered if they served the six-leggers some purpose. He theorized that the marks were some kind of territorial marker, meant to ward off others of the same species much like other creatures used scent marks. Luckily it seemed the six-leggers did not mind his presence in their territory, so long as he avoided trying to eat them.
As the sun hung low in the sky, setting beyond the treetops, Lief picked up the scent of fresh moving water. Suddenly longing to drink from a real stream, not the small mud-filled puddles he had been slacking his thirst with lately, he set out in the direction his nose led him.
After picking his way through brambles and ferns alike, he found a small creek that had created a deep furrow in the land. Though the water ran shallow, it was clean and clear, and the plummet pup eagerly jumped down into the gully. The water was cooling his aching paw pads as he leaned his head down and lapped at it without reserve. It tasted of stone and sediment, and he got the sense that this stream originated someplace underground.
After taking his fill of the water, Lief turned his attention to his aching stomach. Travel was taxing on the wandering pup and, and his body seemed to scream for nourishment. While his earlier hunt of the six-legger had ended in failure and a nearly burnt snout, he was certain that not every beast in the forest was truly dangerous, and of those some had to be edible.
While plummet pups were omnivores by nature, Lief had taken to hunting small game on his journey more than experimenting with the toxicity of plants after a particularly bad case of stomach cramps caused by some mysterious rust-colored berries.
He jumped out of the gully, but for the most part stayed by its side as he nosed about the undergrowth. Finding nothing edible in the immediate vicinity, he was just about to give up when a loud, raucous bird-cry drew his attention. Suddenly a large, colorful, and proud looking bird landed in the stream.
Immediately Lief dropped into a hunter’s crouch, and watched as the bird strut about for a few moments and cawed loudly. After claiming this section of the stream as its own, the bird began to bathe. It plucked a mouthful of water and tossed it into the air with gusto, fluffing out its feathers and flapping its wings as the droplets rained down on its bright plumage. As it leaned down to repeat the process, Lief sprang forth from the undergrowth. The bird recognized the Plummet Pup as a threat just a second too late. As it cried in shock and spread its wings to take flight Lief pinned it to the streambed. With one quick snapping motion of his jaws, the bird’s neck broke.
Lief lifted his flower-bud tipped tail in approval and picked up his catch in his mouth. He carried it out of the streambed and settled with it in a patch of sunshine. Before he set about removing the colorful feathers from the deceased bird, he studied it for a moment. It was fairly large, and reminded him of a pheasant, though he had never seen one with such colors before. Briefly he bowed his head and thanked the animal for its life, the same way his mother had taught him all those seasons before. Then he set about plucking the feathers and eating his meal.
While the bird didn’t exactly leave the plummet pup stuffed full, it did take the edge off his hunger. Lief set about exploring more of the new land, and loosely wandered downstream. As night began to take hold, he settled down in a natural nest of tree roots.
It felt like he had closed his eyes for but a moment before a distant but quickly approaching sound roused him. He sprang up from his impromptu nest and looked skyward just in time to see a large, winged creature blot out the starlight above the treetops. He crouched instinctively as it passed overhead, though it paid him no heed as it traversed the sky.
Thoroughly unnerved by the experience, Lief started downstream again, in the opposite direction of the creature’s path. He moved anxiously, keeping low and to the shadows. Eventually his nerves calmed and he started to pay attention to the creatures that called the forest home, and the night their waking hour. Small and colorful insects filled the night with their brilliant glow, and he snapped at them with delight. Once he managed to catch one in his mouth and chomped down on the hard outer shell, only to be greatly disgusted as a vile taste filled his mouth. Immediately he scrambled down into the stream and began desperately lapping away at the water. While the cool liquid did help wash away some of the rancid flavor, the taste stayed with him for the rest of the night. He made note to never try and eat one of the glowing bugs ever again.
As he jumped back out of the gully, a peculiar scent caught his attention. He followed the scent, curiosity getting the better of him despite the night’s earlier encounter.
Suddenly he was standing at the edge of a huge nest, larger than that of any bird he had ever seen. Within the ground-laid nest a shadowy creature moved, though by the way they acted Lief could tell they did not belong there. He realized with some kind of disgust that they were actually eating an egg. He growled lowly, and the creature paused.
While Lief was no stranger to taking life for the purpose of food, to feast on a mother’s egg while she was away had always just seemed wrong. He lashed his tail to shake the undergrowth and appear bigger, and with a foreign-sounding shout the creature dashed away.
Once he was sure the area was safe, Lief approached the nest with a vast amount of caution. He balked at the sight. Splinters of eggshell lay strewn about, mixed with the blood of a pup-sized animal. He investigated the corpse sadly. Clearly it had been ready to hatch, whatever it had been.
A small tapping sound drew his attention to the other egg, which while disturbed, seemed wholly intact. He watched with fascination as the tapping sound grew louder, more determined, until a chip of the shell broke away from the rest. Slowly but steadily the egg rocked and cracked as the creature within fought for freedom. Lief found himself willing the tiny being on, until suddenly with a great heave the shell cracked in half and a tiny bedraggled creature tumbled out. It gave a tiny, high-pitched cry, and Lief stared down at the new life.
The thing, he didn’t know what exactly to call it, was purple in hue, and had a lighter spot on its back in the rough shape of a square. A tiny tail was colored the same as a summer sky, with two claws on each of its front feet to match. A darker color of purple shaded its hind legs and spots of what Lief could only assume were its ears. Its bumpy nose was bright white, with only the tiniest hint of lilac. Little purple brows were furrowed in distress.
Lief pawed at it gently, and it wobbled and fell over with a cry. He lifted his head and looked around; he was expecting to see a larger version of the creature to come crashing through the undergrowth any moment to tend to it’s young. With that thought he retreated from the nest to the safety of the shadows, though he stayed nearby to observe.
So he waited.
And time passed.
And he waited some more.
The little creature mostly stayed where it had settled, occasionally crying out into the darkness. As the stars shifted overhead and the sky lightened on the eastern horizon, Lief crept out of his hiding place and approached it. It was then when it blinked up at him with wide, turquoise-colored eyes. There, in the milky morning light, Lief could see something in those eyes. This was an intelligent being. He could nearly sense the great potential this young life could possess.
But what to do? Lief had no way to care for a young pup-thing. He didn’t know what to feed it, how to speak to it; he didn’t even know what it was.
He decided not to leave it to die in the nest at least. If he didn’t take it with him, some predator would make quick work of it. As gently as he could, he picked up the small creature in his mouth and started away from the nest.
For lack of anything else, he headed back to the stream and continued following it. He thought about changing forms and saving time by flying over the trees, but the strange figure he saw earlier in the night made his hackles rise at the thought, so he stayed on the ground.
He hadn’t been following the water long before he noticed that the trees thinned out dramatically ahead. He quickened his pace, and the little creature bumping along in his jaws scrunched up its face and squeezed its eyes shut.
As Lief emerged from the tree line he found himself standing on the sandy shore of a lake. A thin morning mist had started to rise from the water’s surface, but he was able to see structures on the other side of the water.
Lief had seen many of these towns and cities during his travels. He was always careful to completely avoid them, for he had been raised on horror stories of plummet pups being plucked clean of their feathers, never to fly again. But perhaps things were different here. He wondered if the little creature he now carried belonged there.
So he set about the edge of the lake, making good time, with the little purple being in his jaws bumping against his chest. By the time he approached the outskirts of the village, he had seen no one. All was quiet in the early morning, save for birdsong.
Lief slowed his pace and approached the first building he found with caution. He observed it for several minutes, safely tucked away in the shadows, before he saw movement within. A somewhat large, tan, bipedal creature drew curtains from the window, allowing natural light to stream into the room. After that he swiveled his ears forward and concentrated on the sounds emerging from the structure.
He detected voices, and was surprised to find he understood much of the language used, though it was muffled. The little creature in his mouth grew restless, wiggling and making tiny sounds of protest, so Lief dropped it gently in the leaf litter.
Still Lief was not sure if these creatures were the same as the one he had saved in the forest. He needed a better look. Moving swiftly, he crossed the neatly trimmed grass. He jumped up on his hind legs and peered through the window, keeping his ears as low as they would go. Though the creatures within varied in appearance, he spotted several that looked like older versions of the hatchling he had been caring for. Reassured that this was a safe place for the little thing, he jumped down and raced back to the brush where he had left his tiny charge.
He nudged it out from under a bush, and once again it stared up at him with its wide turquoise eyes. Its blue stump of a tail wagged a bit as the plummet pup inhaled deeply, committing the individual’s scent to memory.
“Grow up,” he said quietly, “Grow up and survive. Be strong.”
With that he picked up the thing and trotted to the stoop. He set it down gently and then darted back to the shadowy bushes.
Suddenly left alone, the little being started to fuss and cry. It wasn’t long after that the bipedal opened the door and spotted the hatchling. It took it inside after casting a curious look about the garden.
The plummet pup turned around and started heading back to the forest.</sub>